03/17/2009 at 11:00 PM EDT
As Natasha Richardson remains in a New York hospital, her family and friends have all but given up hope that she'll recover from a severe head injury.
"There is no chance," a family friend told PEOPLE on Tuesday night. "It is a fact that her heart is beating but she is brain dead."
Her dire condition – doctors described it to those close to Richardson as "leakage of blood between the brain and skull," the friend says – has the actress's family coming to grips with potentially having to make an unthinkably difficult decision. "It's not official yet," says the friend, "but they basically will detach her."
Richardson, 45, the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave, suffered a devastating head injury
Monday while skiing on a beginner's slope outside Montreal during a trip with at least one of her two sons. Her husband, Liam Neeson, 56, raced from a Toronto movie set to be with her as she was hospitalized.
On Tuesday, a private jet brought them both to New York, where family and friends gathered for a vigil
. Reps for the family have declined to comment on Richardson's medical condition.